April 14, 2011

Dr. West v3 is here!

After only 2 weeks of waiting, the new version is here. What's new here? Loads of small stuff.
  • Quests support - I've built basic framework to make hard-coded quests  into the game. More on that below.
  • Random Events - from time to time a green ? will appear in the laboratory. In some cases it will be an Anxious Assistant quest but more often it will be a random event with a chance of success and failure. More on that below.
  • Finite Police and Police Ending - the amount of police available at the police station is now finite (around 20 or so officers). This amount is displayed on the station itself and each time an officer dies, it goes lower. When all officers are dead, the game ends with victory - the town is now under the terror of the reanimated and no one can stop the doctor from his work.
  • Town Panic - now when there is less than 30% or so of townspeople alive, the authorities will order the police on patrol. The police is a bit scared at that point and will only patrol areas close to the station. Incidentally this also solves the rare situation when theory is still lower than 10 but all townspeople are dead and player has to resort to waiting until fresh bodies are available at the cemetery.
  • Image support - now all tiles and objects are stored in images making eventual graphics version possible.
  • Smarter movement around obstacles - Small improvement but your reanimated are now less likely to stop unable to move around the corner.
The new version is as always here.

I'd like to put some things down about the new improvements which were implemented in the new version. First the quests.

Quests layer is technically possible in any kind of game. Of course, some game genres are much more suited for them, the others are not. However, even in the game like Dr. West they have some use. The obvious bonuses they give are diversifying player tasks giving him some optional but potentially interesting goals and describing the setting. It's usually up to the game developer to focus on quests or leave only a few around here and there. But describing the setting in some more detail is always a good thing except in case of puzzle games, though Puzzle Quest is a good reminder that even in a puzzle game setting can be used to an advantage.

Of course, quest layer has to be integrated in the setting and other game layers to work properly. No matter how well you describe "Kill 10 wolves" it will stop being interesting after some time. So my guess is that you should stop after seeing repetition and either try to be more original or forget about it - nobody will complain if a game has only 5 quests but they are interesting.

That leads to the problem of Dr. West setting and gameplay limitations. There are only two quests currently because player only has one solution to any problem (send reanimated to deal with it) and only has very few attributes to be rewarded  upon. Perhaps an inventory system is in order. Some unique items should give more possibilities to base rewards upon. But the game should also have other ways to solve problems for that to work. I don't think there will be significantly more quests but I'm still satisfied with their implementation and uses. On the other hand I may come up with another gameplay mechanic.

Another thing which is directly tied into quests is random events. Basically there is a quest called LabEventGeneric which is repeatable (other two are not) during the course of one game and has inside it 7 random events. Random event is something uncontrollable that may happen at any game turn. The equipment may break or new chemicals can arrive in the mail or the doctor will read a medicine journal and will have a Eureka moment raising Theory attribute. The event layer itself is probably directly stolen from Master of Magic and Master of Orion games.

Random events have the same bonus that quests have - that is they give flavor to the setting albeit less so. But they are also much easier to think of - I consider making cemetery and police event sets to give some more flavor to the town surroundings. The main event limitation is that player has no control on their result, everything is decided automatically based on random chance.

In conclusion, both of these things give an illusion to the player that there is more than there really is. They will definitely make it into my new games from now on  and probably into Evil Cult and Black Obelisk as well. Especially into the latter one, I always wanted to add more depth to the gameplay and setting after finding the core stealth mechanic.


  1. 1. Fanart! :D
    2. Good use of >HR<! I look forward to reading the second part of your post after sleeping :)

  2. I quite like the random events in MOO2. The character customization (more like game customization) too!

    I would find it interesting to try a match of evil cult with all fields visible.

  3. That was race customization :) It could done in EC technically and I thought about it - making all cults different in some way. But not for now, it's just too much work.

    > I would find it interesting to try a match of evil cult with all fields visible.

    There's an inbuilt debug mode (which you can only turn on by fixing javascript file, unfortunately) which allows to open all map with a map. It has a slight glitch, though - you can click on any node on the map to try to conquer it.